Who's the Liar?: A 40th Anniversary Re-examination of the fable of Bob and Judas
There's been a lot of talk about Judas lately. New information coming to light and making people re-think their long-held assumptions about him and his story. Well, I don't know nuthin' 'bout no biblical history (that's actually not entirely true, but I'm making my way towards something here, so let's just move along), but all that talk got me to thinkin' 'bout that other Judas story them rock and roll folks are always yappin' 'bout (I will now end the faux-folksy - hmm, would that be faux-ksy? - imitation Guthrie cum Dylan speech mannerisms). See how I just worked my way around to Bob Dylan? Some days it just all flows like that. Anyway, THAT'S the Judas story I'm talking about. The fable of Bob and Judas. You know it - it's in all the rock history books. It goes like this: Bob goes electric at Newport. Gets booed. Bob goes to England with the Hawks, later to become the Band, plays electric - gets booed. Plays a show at Manchester Free Trade Hall (though the story used to be that it was the Royal Albert Hall, probably the first indication that the story was shaky) gets booed. But not only booed. Some guy (maybe it was Keith Butler, maybe it was some other guy, who knows? they're both dead) yells out "Judas!" And then, as the story goes, Bob snaps back at him: "I don't believe you. You're a liar!" This is HUGE in the lore of Bob. Every biography - even a thumbnail sketch of Bob - includes this story. It's a major point in the Scorsese film. Hell, there;'s even a whole damn book written about this. The thing is . . I'm absolutely certain that it didn't go down this way. There's a couple problems. First, Bob's response isn't exactly the greatest comeback in the annals of heckling. "I don't believe you" I guess is at least factual, but not exactly the pithy wordplay we'd expect of Bob. But "You're a liar"? It just . . doesn't fit. But the thing that really seals it is what you never hear mentioned when you hear this story. In fact, Scorsese EDITED THIS PART OUT in the movie, which makes me suspect maybe he has his doubt too but just went with the old John Ford adage "if you have to choose between the truth and the legend, print the legend." What really happens is the dude yells "Judas". Then, a couple seconds go by. Then the audience starts to laugh and applaud, which takes about another 8 seconds. THEN ANOTHER GUY STARTS YELLING AT BOB. This guy goes on yelling for about 8 seconds. Then, finally, at this point - nearly 20 seconds after the Judas remark (20 seconds, by the way, passes like an eternity on stage), Bob gives his Liar remark. Not exactly a snappy comeback, if he's talking to "Judas". Pretty quick, though, if it's this other guy he's responding to. So, what I'm thinking is Bob's talking to that other guy. And when you listen to the whole thing with that in mind, free from the preconception of what you've been conditioned by all these stories to believe you're SUPPOSED to be hearing - it's pretty convincing. The one problem is - and I'm sure this is where the whole thing got started - you can't really make out what this other guy is saying. I thought I'd make rock history, or least CORRECT it, by taking the audio to my friend John Anthony at MAJA Audio Group who, in addition to being a great engineer who has worked on a bunch of my stuff, also does occasional audio forensics for the FBI. So we spent a couple hours filtering things, flipping the phase on sections to try and remove guitar noises (damn, those guys tuned a lot), stuff like that - trying to get this guy's words clear. The good news is it really cleaned up a lot. The bad news is I still can't tell what this guy is saying. Part of it is the other sounds going on, part of it is the thick Mancurian accent this guy has. So, in honor of the 40th anniversary (the concert was May 17, 1966) of this historical event, I give you this tiny video montage of pictures taken at the concert, with the best audio that John was able to come up with. Can YOU tell what he's saying. If so, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and together we can change rock 'n' roll history (and I'll make sure your name is mentioned in the MOJO article).